Introduction: DIY Wipe-On Poly Hack

Picture of DIY Wipe-On Poly Hack

Making your own DIY wipe-on poly finish for wooden projects is easy. Wipe-on poly is great because it dries quickly, you don't need to dirty a brush and it doesn't drip. However, to buy the solution in the store can be expensive, especially considering how easy it is to make your own.

After a couple of tests, I have come up with a solution that is pretty much identical to the one you buy in the store, in terms of finish and color. So let's create a custom pump can to make it easier to access the finish, and then mix our own solution.

Step 1: Make the Can


  • 1 quart paint can
  • replacement soap dispenser


  • drill
  • 3/8 inch drill bit


Start with a clean 1 quart paint can. Measure the center of the lid and drill a hole using the 3/8 inch drill bit. Insert the replacement soap dispenser pump into the hole, push it down all the way. Here you can secure it with epoxy or hot glue to create a seal.

Step 2: Mix the Solution

Picture of Mix the Solution


  • Polyurethane
  • Mineral Spirits


In the can, pour in 1 cup of polyurethane and 1 cup of mineral spirits. Mix well, then put on the lid with the attached soap dispenser pump and secure the lid in place using a mallet. Try the pump out and you're ready to use your new wipe-on poly pump can!

Tip! In between uses, it can be a good idea to close off the end of the nozzle with a piece of tape to prevent air from entering the can, which will affect the finish over time.

Step 3: Conclusion - Watch the Video

For a more in depth look, check out the video that goes over all of the steps to make this simple DIY wipe-on poly finish.


austin.hall.129794 (author)2015-04-12

I store all my wipe on finishes like Danish oil, wipe on poly, beeswax oil etc in squeezy bottles that have a flip top cap with the hole in, some even have small rubber type seals within the holes - usually mayo. It's not a perfect seal, so if you don't use regularly you could add a slip of greaseproof paper or clingfilm (saran wrap for you over there :)) under the cap.

Simply pop the cap and squeeze a small amount, no need for a paint kettle or other container. It even works for brush on paste waxes.

Wm.Sterling.Wright (author)2015-02-27

Just a thought.... could you also just use an empty hand soap dispensor? It wouldn't be a good place to mix up the solution, but you could slip it into a pocket while you are working on a project. I am always walking around a table or dresser I am refinishing and having to go back to my workbench or wherever I have my poly safely set away from what I am working on. I might just have to give that a try next time I am doing this.

mking37 (author)2015-02-21

Will the can work with any finish?

darbinorvar (author)mking372015-02-22

I can't think of anything that would not work. You can always try a sample and see how that goes.

Beagles (author)2015-02-06

Good instructions. Think that soap pump will gum up over time, just the way they do when used on soap. When I have made my wipe on Poly, it is stored in a tin with a screw on top or a wine bottle with a screw on. A suggestion was made, that linseed oil could be added, if you do be sure it is the boiled type (not raw) or it will never dry. A couple of old painter tricks to keep your mix fresh and reduce skin over.....before you put on the lid, blow through a straw into your container, that will displace any O2 with your CO2. Or, shoot your propane torch, unlit of course, into the container, it will displace the O2 also (heavier).

If you wish to experiment a bit on colours, use marine varnish with various ratios and you can add some stain for varied colours. A varnish/stain mixture has been available commercially in the past.

AndiMN (author)2015-01-21

Just a thought. Could a vacuum pump & stoppers like you use to get air out of opened bottles of wine be used to keep the mix from being exposed to air & curing in the can/jar? You could take the dispenser pump out, put the stopper in the hole, then use the vaccuum pump to remove the air?

kuma.rhyu (author)AndiMN2015-01-31

If you attempt to vacuum out the air from the storage container, you are just boiling out the lightest components of the mixture faster and are more likely to cause the mixture to change consistency and usefulness more quickly than if you just seal it up.

Meursydotes (author)AndiMN2015-01-23

If you are mixing in 50% mineral spirits, then oxygen exposure will be a non-issue.

Jos Instructable (author)2015-01-24

It looks like good stuff you made. But does anyone have a suggestion where to find the Dutch translations for "wipe-on poly finish", "polyurethane" and "mineral spirits". Alas dictionaries are useless for these kind of words.

I did use polyurethane lacquer in the past called "Cowirant" which I loved, it was German stuff. But cannot find it anymore. Would that be the same as your "polyurethane"?

Mineral spirits (en-US) = White spirit (en-GB) = Terpentine (nl). Polyurethane is (most likely) polyurethaanhars. A quick Google search tells me the minwax stuff is hard to find in the Netherlands.

GenerallyOdd (author)2015-01-26

I use canning jars for a lot of stuff. For stuff that is sensitive to UV exposure, I just stuff the jar in old socks and store in the back of the pantry which works PRETTY well - but I got some PlastiDip and am going to use that to cover a case of jars.

John916R (author)2015-01-20

Great article. I mix mine as needed and add a small amount of Japan Dryer to the mix. It will give you a much faster drying time. By thinning down the poly, you also reduce the gloss of the original product.

Meursydotes (author)John916R2015-01-23

Adding Japan Dryer does not change the curing time of the product. It only shortens the skinover time. The curing of the alkyd resin is due to oxygen curing and is not affected by the Japan Dryer.

John916R (author)Meursydotes2015-01-25

Drying time and cure time are two different states. The fast drying time allows me to apply multiple coats before the coating cures. This allows for a better bonding of the two coatings without the recommended light sanding.

darbinorvar (author)John916R2015-01-20

Thanks for the comment!

zchais (author)2015-01-20

I did this recently. It's just thinning varnish so it's much runnier. It takes a long time to mix so much thinner (mineral spirits... Meths!). And make sure not to whisk cos you don't want bubbles(!). But do mix properly as it'll just be thinner at the top!

Tip: Instead of the squirt gun, you could try plugging in a vinaigrette pourer.

Meursydotes (author)zchais2015-01-23

It is wipe-on, the bubbles are irrelevant because they will just be wiped out.

darbinorvar (author)zchais2015-01-20

That's a great tip!

BetsyFartBlossom (author)2015-01-20

Could one use a glass canning type jar, e.g., Mason Jar, peanut butter jar, and just use a twist cap? Then you could remove the pump, clean it and put a piece of tape over the hole. Good idea to tape the pump to the jar. Also, you could see exactly how much product you have left. This is a good video, I'm planning on staining and varnishing my window sills soon. Thanks.

Yes, glass would really be better. You just have to make sure you don't expose the mix to too much air or it will start to cure in the jar.

Meursydotes (author)darbinorvar2015-01-23

With 50% mineral spirits oxygen exposure will be a non-issue.

Glass will leave your wipe-on susseptible to UW exposure.

gayle.eckstein (author)2015-01-22

Since the coats are thinner how long do I wait tween applying coats ? Great idea, presentation, outline & video ! Bravo !!!

xwania (author)2015-01-17

Just wondering how the plastic soap dispenser is doing after being immersed in the poly/mineral spirit mixture. My guess would be that mineral spirit would eat up the plastic piece over time. Please let me know.thanks.

Kinnishian (author)xwania2015-01-21

Many such tubes would be made of LDPE, and not have any trouble with spirit mixture. Not all, though. you can often feel the difference between LPDE/HDPE plastics and other options. HDPE is what a milk bottle is made of. They're both quite resilient to many chemicals.

darbinorvar (author)xwania2015-01-19

It has been over a month now and it is still going strong, but I am also concerned that it will not last. That is why I think I am going to replace the plastic that has constant contact with the mix with a hollow metal tube. Wish someone made an all metal dispenser though!

GJ_Token (author)darbinorvar2015-01-20

have you considered using an oil can with the thumb pump?

Kevanf1 (author)2015-01-21

I'm puzzled :( What is the 'polyurethane' substance? Is it a solid or a liquid? Where can it be obtained please? Bearing in mind I am in the UK I don't recall seeing 'polyurethane' for sale except in the form of full on polyurethane lacquer or varnish. I could really use some totally clear and colourless lacquer..

lumpee (author)2015-01-20

Could some stain be added to this?

darbinorvar (author)lumpee2015-01-20

Yes, I even made my own danish oil based on this mix. Oil:Spirits:Poly:Stain

Everfalling (author)2015-01-20

i wonder if the wipe-on poly inside the tube of the dispenser will separate over time?

darbinorvar (author)Everfalling2015-01-20

If that happens you can gently mix the solution again.

PiersA (author)2015-01-20

Well done clear and to the point. Nice bit about the oh so common rip off with costs

darbinorvar (author)PiersA2015-01-20

It sure is cheaper to mix your own!

RobertA2 (author)2015-01-20

Excellent and a Great video too. Will be using this soon.

darbinorvar (author)RobertA22015-01-20


Degzi (author)2015-01-20

Try adding some Linseed oil to the mix, it will give a great oil finish, but it will take longer for the finish to harden.

darbinorvar (author)Degzi2015-01-20

That's a great idea!

vdvoort (author)2015-01-17

Where's the vid? or is it not showing in the app?

darbinorvar (author)vdvoort2015-01-19

It should work, but if not here is the link to the video:

Where is the video pls?
Thanks for the nice tip!

pdxwildchildR (author)2015-01-18

...does taping the nozzle tip really keep it from gumming up, also?

Great, clear instructions...thx

It helps to stop air from getting into the container, which can start to cure the mix.

djkea (author)2015-01-19

Quite the cash saver, worked great! I did not make the dispenser, just mixed the poly and mineral spirits. Thanks!

darbinorvar (author)djkea2015-01-19

I guess that is really the main point of the video anyway!

Gregbot (author)2015-01-19


darbinorvar (author)Gregbot2015-01-19

Thank you!

About This Instructable



Bio: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check ... More »
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